Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup
A fun interactive graphic from the Los Angeles Times.
Issue No. 106
When we first decided to publish Walker on Water by Estonian author Kristiina Ehin, it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I had no idea what Estonia was like. Our other books were set in Cape Town and Dhaka, places that inspire very specific and media-saturated imagery. But Estonia? The name conjures up enchanted forests and abandoned castles by the sea, the air thick with salt, and long grassy fields populated with a single cow. I thought of pictures but no sounds and certainly no people, because who really knows what Estonian sounds like. From this silence comes the singular, uncanny voice of Kristiina Ehin, whose brand of reinvented, surreal folk-tales furthers the mythology of Estonia while being decidedly modern.
In this story, “Patterns,” the main character clearly needs her sleep. Her life is dictated by the unfortunate pattern of marrying men called “Jaan,” and then biting their arms off when they wake her up. Obviously, the relationships don’t last. And yet the Jaans of Estonia continue to marry the infamous limb-biter, just as she, man after man, struggles to suppress her primal impulse. Like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, “Patterns” reaffirms that we are all doomed to repetition. Such is the human condition. And yet, by the end, Ehin manages to turn fate on its ear.
She navigates dreamscapes and alternating states of consciousness using a self-aware surrealism that is both escapist and poignant. The story transports the reader to fictional places that are just ever so slightly real enough to be true, and perhaps could be, in Estonia.
The collection Walker on Water is populated with three-headed twins, dragons, giants, emotional refrigerators, and the dangerous children of Surrealists. Ehin’s true talent lies in her ability to make the fantastical relatable, through alternating elements of horror and humor. This is also the goal of the Unnamed Press as we seek out international literature that could have been written by your neighbor. That is, if your neighbor happened to be an award-winning poet who once spent a year living alone on an abandoned nature reserve in Estonia.
I am honored to introduce Kristiina Ehin’s work to the American audience, and especially to recommend her new collection of stories, Walker on Water.
Olivia Taylor Smith
Editor and Marketing Director, The Unnamed Press
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by Kristiina Ehin
Recommended by The Unnamed Press
The three men I’ve bitten arms off of are doing well. I felt guilty for many years. I was afraid I had completely ruined their lives. Of course it must have been difficult for them. But a physical disability doesn’t have to make anyone unhappy. If a person has a great will to live, he’ll recover from the very greatest traumas.
At times I was quite wild when I was young. I generally managed to keep myself under control in the daytime, but at night I could be a real ferocious beast. My first husband was a very gentle, sensitive man. In the mornings he made thin pancakes fried golden brown in butter and poured coffee mixed with frothed milk into my blue earthenware mug. One morning he just couldn’t wait for me to get up. The pancakes were ready and the coffee getting cold. He sat down softly on the edge of my bed and slid his left hand caressingly over my long, soft hair, shoulders, and back. I woke with a start. A wild rage came over me. I pounced on to his upper arm and before I understood what I was doing, I had bitten his whole arm off.
When we filed the divorce papers, I cried bitterly. “You could at least have snarled… ” he said as he was leaving. “That you suddenly, just like that… ”
Jaan is now married to a frail actress. She certainly won’t ever bite him. Jaan works at the automobile museum. At open-air events he earns good money with his artificial arm. He sits next to the driver in open Benzes and De Dion Boutons and points the way, controlling his arm by means of a control panel. In the evening a little light flashes in his arm as well.
Tourists photograph him like mad and Jaan is a made man all over town.
I had therapy for two years and then had the courage to get married again. My second husband’s name was also Jaan. We joked that he must be a hard man indeed to take me to be his wife. And himself a discus thrower and the great Olympic hope of the entire nation. It happened already on our wedding night.
Finally, some reasonable guidelines. Go Uruguay!
Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure…
I live in Los Angeles, the second largest Mexican city in North America, so I could not agree more with Mr. Bourdain’s comments here.
Marijuana must inspire writers, since there are thousands and thousands of titles on the subject. Here’s a short list of essentials, from public policy to a T.C. Boyle satire.